Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Bit of Chivalry

On Saturday, the 19th of April, I was traveling up to Withernsea, to do my radio show. I happened to be walking from Victoria Tube Station, in London, to Victoria Coach Station, to get a bus to Hull. As I started to cross the road, I noticed an attractive, blond, young woman, struggling with several pieces of luggage. She had so much stuff, I figured she must be travelling with someone else. Normally, I don't get involved. Hey! I'm a New Yorker. I keep my head down and mind my own business. This time, something caused me to break the habit of a lifetime.
My inertia carried me beyond the girl. I was one quarter of the way across the road, past her, but still looking back at her. I wondered if she could be alone. I don't know why I did, but I turned back. Maybe it was because I was still smarting from the twenty-something, oriental woman giving me her seat, previously. In any case, I approached this blond and asked, "are you going to the coach station?" Her response was a bit confused and she wasn't on the right side of the road for it, but I worked out that the answer was, "yes." Unfortunately for her, she was planning to head in the wrong direction. Fortunately for her, I wasn't a mugger, rapist, con man, or murderer.
Victoria Coach station is a little confusing, as it's spread over three buildings. She was heading toward the building where mostly local buses depart from. She needed to head to the departures building, for the long-distance services. I happened to be headed to the same place. I pointed out where she needed to go, then asked, "would you like me to help you carry your bags?" Enthusiastically, she said yes. I took one of her biggest bags, with built in wheels, and another, smaller bag. I hung the smaller bag from the extended handle of the bigger one. I still had my own shoulder bag, plus a shopping bag full of newspapers and food. We set off to the departures building.
Her bag on wheels was heavier than I thought and I was struggling with all I had to contend with. She spoke with an American accent, so I asked where she was from. Alaska was the answer. "You're only the second person I have ever met from Alaska," I said. No wonder this chick was so trusting. She was from the wilderness. I learned that she was a student, spending a semester in Europe. Having come to Britain from Germany, she'd spent a week in London and was now on her way north, to some university I'd never heard of. As I struggled with her heavy bags, I asked, "you haven't got books in here, have you?" After all, she was a self-confessed student. She denied that the contents contained literary matter, so I asked, "why have you got so much stuff?" Innocently, she informed me that she'd been buying all sorts of things as she travelled across Europe. "Do yourself a favor," I suggested, "and send some of this stuff home, by courier, or something." I couldn't imagine her managing on her own, with this load.
"I thought of doing that," she said, "but when I asked my parents, they said to just keep it with me."
Her parents probably didn't want to be bothered with all of her junk. "You haven't figured it out, yet, huh? Don't ask your parents, just send it." She seemed a bit clueless. Then I found out that she was only seventeen. No wonder she didn't know what to do. I told her she was pretty brave, traveling around Europe and doing a semester abroad, at seventeen, all on her own. She was earlier for her bus than I was for mine, so we chatted for a while, in the departures lounge. She explained that she'd finished high school early, which explained why she was doing a university semester abroad, at such a young age. Obviously, she was brainy, if not worldly. Something paternalistic in me had taken over. She was a year younger than my evil ex-stepdaughter, the Black Princess, was now, and even more blond. I gave her tips on Britain and advice, plus invited her to tune in to my radio show. Eventually, other girls near to her age, fellow students, started turning up. I noticed her looking at them and realised that she wanted to get to know some of them. I said farewell and shuffled off to my gate. I felt satisfied that I had helped a very deserving person. What's wrong with me? Am I getting soft as I get older, or what?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Old Does She Think I Am?

Last Wednesday, on the way home from my day job, I decided to take advantage of an accumulation of loyalty points and stop at a supermarket, to redeem some of them. It was my turn to buy toilet paper, for the house. Toilet paper is one of those items I can't get free, at work. With a family size pack running about £4, it seemed like the ideal time to cash in some points.
I stopped in the Sainsbury's in Camberley, before catching the train home. Spotting some vegetables marked down, I added some impulse items to my basket. When I was ready to check out, I was faced with one of those supermarket dilemmas. To my left was a very attractive, "black" female cashier, with no one in line. To my right, an ugly, "white," female cashier, equally idle. Which cashier should I choose? Cheekily, I asked the "black" gal, "which one of you should I go to?" Unimpressed, she suggested that I use the other woman. Despite her advice, I started putting my purchases on the "black" woman's conveyor belt. I had overcome a moment's hesitation, when the thought occurred to me that the ugly woman might be the better cashier. When it comes to picking checkout queues, beauty usually wins out, with me. If I must stand in a queue, I might as well have a pretty face to look at. I would come to regret my decision.
I'd found a real bargain in toilet paper. I selected a package of Sainsbury's own brand, which was sixteen rolls for the price of twelve. This was the largest package of loo roll I had ever purchased and me without a car. Fortunately, it came with a built-in handle. With my other purchases in a carrier bag and having saved £7.50 off a total bill of just over £8, I walked to the Camberley train station. I'd messed up my timing and just missed the train to Ascot. That left me with almost thirty minutes to wait for the next one. Sitting down to pass the time, I happened to start reviewing the receipt from my shopping. I have a tendency to look over my receipts from supermarkets, to check that I haven't been over-charged. Usually everything is fine, but this time, it wasn't. The pretty cashier had overcharged me by thirty pence! I contemplated going back. It would be a pain in the ass to walk back, with the things I was carrying: my black shoulder bag, my package of sixteen loo rolls, and my carrier bag of impulse purchases. Still, I had time to kill and I hate losing money unnecessarily. As I walked back to the store, it occurred to me that the ugly woman probably wouldn't have made the mistake. A lot of ugly women are good at their jobs, because they can't just coast through on their looks.
I managed to get my thirty pence back and still catch the next train to Ascot. Once in Ascot, I changed platforms and caught the first train towards Reading; a necessary step, if one is going to Bracknell. After arriving in Bracknell, I decided that I'd had enough of schlepping with all the things I was carrying. I decided to treat myself to a bus ride home, rather than the half-an-hour walk. When the 194 arrived at the bus station, it was a double-decker. I didn't feel like struggling with all my stuff to the upper deck, especially as I was only going three stops. However, because I was one of the last people on the bus, there were no more easily accessible seats on the lower level. I resigned myself to parking my packages in the area provided for luggage and stand. As the bus started off, a lovely, oriental, young woman, seated in the single seat nearest to me, asked if I wanted to sit down. Even though I said, "no," she got up anyway. I figured she must be getting off soon, so I took the vacated seat.
It felt good to be seated. I eyed my benefactor and she smiled at me, when we made eye contact. She was short and looked a little like Lucy Liu, only with a slightly darker complexion. As I sat looking her over, thinking she's somewhat attractive, I tried to decide what Asian country she might be from. She looked Chinese, but with the tanned coloring that is common amongst Thais and Nepalese. As I was enjoying the view of her long, dark hair, we passed the first couple of stops without her getting off. It suddenly occurred to me that she hadn't gotten up because she was getting off. She had deliberately vacated the seat so I could have it, like one would do for an elderly person. Looking at her and estimating her age to be in her early twenties, I thought, "how old does she think I am?" Here I had been, fantasizing over her, sexually, and she'd been treating me like an old age pensioner! The pleasure of getting to sit had turned into a sour taste in my mouth. I'm not even fifty yet, for Pete's sake!
The bus approached my stop, so I signaled that I wanted to get off. As I gathered my things, I noted that the young woman was still on board. Well, at least she could have the seat back. I slipped out the door, leaving my little, oriental fortune cookie on board. Oh, the humiliation! She thinks I am an old man. I walked home from the bus stop, with my bags, sixteen rolls of toilet paper, and my bruised pride. Should I stoop to coloring my hair to hide the grey? What price vanity?

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Saturday Night Off

This past Sunday, I had to be on location, for a film shoot, at 6:30AM. Because of that, it wasn't possible to do my "Night Waves" radio show, as it finishes at 7AM, and the studio is about 250 miles from the location. After explaining to the Station Manager, he was cool with me taking Saturday night off. After all, I make a hell of a lot more money working on a film, than I do doing radio.
The last time I was "off" on a Saturday, was the Saturday before New Year. Then, my good friends, Tim and Barbara, were visiting, from New York. Even though I was off, I was busy entertaining them, so it wasn't a relaxing time for me. This past Saturday was different. I had nobody to please other than myself. I was up for some fun. I found that Jordan Marsh's band, Blue Shoes, was playing a gig in Essex. I had to hire a car to get to the shoot on Sunday morning, so I picked it up Saturday evening, then set out for Essex. The car hire company gave me a free upgrade, because they were out of the cheap cars, which is what I had reserved. Instead, they gave me a Fiat Bravo and I wasn't complaining. The car was very nice, with a six speed transmission. I tuned in some music on the stereo, then blasted around the M25, to the other side of London.
Jordan was playing at the Eagle and Child, the same pub I had been turned away from, on New Year's Eve. This time, I had no trouble getting in. When I walked in, Jordan had just started his first set. He gave me a nod of acknowledgement, as I walked in. I bought a pint of Strongbow from the bar, then settled to enjoy the show. Jordan plays a nice mix of classic rock, soul, rockabilly, and even takes requests. Women in Essex have quite a reputation and there were several good looking Essex girls, present. In fact, I ended up surrounded. I had two brunettes in front of me and two blondes behind me.
When Jordan finished his second set and started packing up for the night, I walked over for a quick word. He was cordial as ever, even though we were interrupted by one of the brunettes, who was drunk. He told me that he's still not finished the CD he's working on. After saying goodbye, I rejoined the Fiat, out in the car park. With the stereo fired up, I roared back around the M25, to Berkshire and home. It was a fun night out. The only thing that could have made it better is if one of my friends had joined me. If you ever have the chance to see Jordan Marsh perform, grab it. He always gives an entertaining performance. This Saturday, I should be back on the radio, from Midnight, UK time, till 7AM, Sunday. You can listen to me at .

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Open and Shut Case

Last Thursday, I was working on a film shoot, on location, in London. It was my fourth day on the same project and, just as on the previous project I worked on with the same director, he seemed to keep us waiting around a lot. As long as I'm getting paid, I couldn't care less. On Thursday, I didn't do anything all day, but sit around, sleep, play sudoku, read the paper, eat, and chat with fellow background artistes.
Barbara, the Hungarian woman I met about eleven months ago, on the director's previous project, was also on the current shoot. This time, she'd gotten her son on the job, as well. He seemed like a nice young man and is very "into" films. Each day, I carry my black shoulder bag, to keep my "stuff" in. For the shoot, it contained flapjacks, newspapers, a book, my hat, plus back up pen, train schedules, bus schedules, my portable radio, and a few other "bits." The bag is actually an old, leather, laptop case. Someone was throwing it out, last year, when I rescued it. As I tend to pick up any free newspaper I can get my hands on, but don't throw them away until I have completed the sudokus in them, there are usually several newspapers sticking out of the top of one of the compartments of the case.
When we wrapped for the day, I happened to be walking out at the same time as Barbara's son. Suddenly, he says to me, "your bag is open."
After looking down to check it, I say, "I know." Of course it's open. I usually leave two or three of the top compartments open, because I have so much "stuff" inside, I can't close the zippers. Several newspapers were sticking out of one of the compartments, as normal. Was he really concerned that someone might steal one of my several days old newspapers, or was he just teasing me? I walked to the Tube station and didn't give the matter any more thought.
After taking the District line to Richmond, I crossed over to the Southwest Trains platform, to catch the next Reading bound train. When the train arrived, it was very full. I pushed past several people standing in the doorway. I had spotted one empty seat, between two people, facing backwards. I hurried to get to the seat, before someone else grabbed it. I was tired and wanted to sit for the journey to Bracknell. As I started down the aisle, towards the seat, one of the people who had been standing in the doorway grabbed my arm. It was a young man I had squeezed past. It had better be important, as he'd just violated the taboo against touching a stranger. Feeling annoyed, I turned to see what this person wanted. "Your bag is open," he said.
"Yeah, I know," I said feeling exasperated. That's it? This muppet grabbed my arm on a crowded train, delaying me from reaching the only available seat, to tell me my bloody bag is open? It's always open! Every day I travel, one or more of the compartments is unzipped. There's nothing valuable inside. Usually, no one says anything about it. In fact, I have been travelling on public transportation since last July and no one has ever told me my bag was open. Until last Thursday. Now, two young men had told me in the same day. What's with these guys and my open bag? Leave me alone! I hate when strangers who aren't beautiful women disturb me, in public. I hate it when people tell me something I am already fully aware of, as if they've done me this massive favor. Why me? Why that day? I can hardly wait till I can afford a limousine.

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